lionel Messi walks on water Pique’s Late Strike Helps Barcelona Maintain Unbeaten Run
Madrid: Gerard Pique scored a late header to salvage a 1-1 draw for runaway La Liga leaders Barcelona at city rivals Espanyol on Sunday, keeping their bid for an unbeaten campaign on track.
Ernesto Valverde’s men were in danger of falling to their first league defeat of the season when Gerard Moreno nodded the hosts ahead midway through the second half, but centre-back Pique met a Lionel Messi corner in the 82nd minute to snatch a point.
Lionel Messi proved once again to be a miracle-maker as the Argentine came off the bench in the torrential rain to help prolong Barcelona’s unbeaten Liga record.
The Blaugrana went into the Catalan derby with the chance to extend their unbeaten start to the Liga campaign to 22 games. The last team to record a longer unbeaten start were Fabio Capello’s Real Madrid – 24 matches – back in 1996-97.
This incredible run looked set to come to an end at Cornella El-Prat as Gerard Moreno’s header took Espanyol to the brink of a famous victor Even though it was raining, we thought that the pitch would hold, but then we saw that the grass was not going to hold up and that the pitch was becoming dangerous,” the Barcelona coach said.
“On our passes from defence the ball could get stuck in a puddle and that’s why things got difficult.
The rain poured down all game long, leaving the pitch soggy and making short, one-touch passing extremely difficult to execute. The Blaugrana have often toiled in the past on slow playing surfaces and it was no different on Sunday.
Even the likes of Andres Iniesta were losing the ball as it got caught up in the turf, and Marc-Andre Ter Stegen came to the rescue after the veteran midfielder had his pocket picked by Leo Baptistao.
Indeed, Barca were fortunate to go in level at the break when Baptistao headed over a glorious chance from six yards out from an enticing Marc Navarro cross. The Brazilian squandered another great chance when through on goal seconds after the restart.
“We give a lot of value to this draw, because it was hard to get because of this scenario and because it’s a derby and we didn’t want to lose.”
The five-time European champions also set a new club record of 22 matches unbeaten to start a league season on Sunday, and are still in the hunt for a La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League treble.
“We are still up there (top of the table). The conditions for them and for us were not the best, but it was an entertaining game,” Barca captain Andres Iniesta told BeIn Sports.
They were far from at their fluent best against a stubborn Espanyol whose point drags them eight clear of the relegation zone, although Philippe Coutinho came close to scoring his first goal since joining from Liverpool last month when he struck the crossbar in the first half.
Faltering champions Real Madrid are 19 points adrift of arch rivals Barca in fourth, after throwing away two points in a 2-2 draw at Levante on Saturday.